10-EAST INDIA COMPANY

 

In the Netherlands, William the Silent, also known as William of Nassau and Prince of Orange, was a robust champion of Protestantism who encouraged thousands of Jews, new Christians as he called them, and Huguenots, Christian Protestants from France, to migrate to Amsterdam. Thanks to this influx, Amsterdam became the trading capital of the world and the Dutch ruled the oceans for much of the 17th century.

Sephardim were money men while Huguenots were entrepreneurs, and together, they formed a formidable team. They created the East India Company in 1600, in London. but in 1602 they decided to move their headquarters to Amsterdam. Even though Jews and Protestants had been free to enter England, a development that had started under Henry VIII, the people were still very much brainwashed by the old ideas of the Roman Church. So, because the Marranos weren’t free to practise their religion, and because Protestants were still viewed as enemies, the company shareholders decided to set up their headquarters in Amsterdam.

Once established in Amsterdam, they got right down to business. In order to protect the North American fur trade, the company shareholders built a fort at the tip of Manhattan in 1609 which would become New Amsterdam in 1624, and later, New York. In 1652, they expanded and created a colony on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, in order to protect the spice trade with Asia. The Dutch East India Company ruled the waves, and its founders, Jews and Huguenots, became so rich and powerful, that they could start planning the demise of the Holy Roman Empire.

But they hadn’t given up on re-establishing the company’s headquarters in London, for England was across the channel from France and its economy had much more potential. However, before they could return, they would have to find a way to get rid of the papist kings and get a king that would accept parliamentary rule. As it so happened, there were strong anti-royalist feelings in the English parliament, and the word Catholic was starting to be used to distinguish the papist followers from the Anglicans. Because Charles I, a Catholic, had just been crowned after marrying the Catholic Bourbon Princess Henrietta, it wouldn’t be too difficult to finance an army that would answer to an anti-royalist parliament, defeat the catholic king, and force him to accept parliamentary rule. The country was ripe for civil war.

Oliver Cromwell came to the financiers’ attention in 1642, when he joined the roundheads, the pro-parliamentarians. At the outset of what became known as the English civil war, he distinguished himself militarily and was subsequently promoted to commander of the New Model Army. Over the next few years, the royalist forces were defeated, and when Charles 1, the divine right king, was captured following a battle in Scotland in 1645, he was handed over to the English parliament which was under the protection of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. However, Charles refused to accept a constitutional monarchy and escaped. In 1647, he was recaptured, and in 1648, he was tried, convicted and executed. Cromwell then dominated the Rump Parliament created in 1649.

But Oliver Cromwell was a puritan fanatic who had been extremely aggressive towards Ireland and Scotland, both catholic strongholds. Not able or not wanting to work with the Irish and Scottish parliamentarians, he simply dissolved parliament. After assuming the title of Lord Protector of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, he turned the powerful English navy against the very financiers that had financed it, the shareholders of the Dutch East India Company. He wanted England to take charge of the Atlantic trade. Of course, that was not to be, and Cromwell was doomed.

When Cromwell died from natural causes in 1658, his inept son couldn’t hold the Protectorate together, and the Convention Parliament decided to recall the Catholic kings. During the Restoration period (1660-1688), two kings of divine right, the two sons of Charles I, James II and Charles II, ruled in turn and fought the East India Company for trade supremacy.

The Jews and Huguenots both in Amsterdam and in London had to find a way to put a stop to the fratricidal naval wars and especially to the rule of papist kings in England. An arranged marriage between William of the House of Orange and Mary of the House of Stuart would be a very good way to do just that. In the interim, the financiers turned their attention to France.

9-HUGUENOTS

The Christian Church was intolerant and sanguinary from the very beginning and it fostered much hate throughout the Holy Roman Empire. The absolute kings of divine right, anointed by the Pope, ruled over the different parts of the empire and not only persecuted the Jews, the ‘Christ killers’, but all those who refused to follow the Roman Church’s liturgy as well. For instance, the Pope would suggest the need for a crusade, and the kings and nobles fearing excommunication, or wanting to earn their passage into heaven, would be quick to raise an army, France leading the way. The first crusade was against the Muslims in 1099. After slaughtering the Muslims in Jerusalem, the French conquered Palestine and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem which lasted until 1291. In 1209, Pope Innocent III asked the French king to carry out a crusade against his own people, the Cathars, and it lasted from 1209 to 1229. The Cathars were completely annihilated down to the last ‘good man’ who was executed in 1231, more than a million in all. All this because the peaceful Cathars refused to accept the Roman Church’s liturgy.

The Church committed so many atrocities and was so inflexible that opposition to it could only grow. So, when Gutenberg’s printing press came along in 1440, it slowly paved the way for the Protestant Reformation that was to come. At first, printing had a very limited impact, for it was used mainly to print the Bible and such. The Church controlled what was being printed, the language used was Latin, only a few scholars could read, and fewer still could write.

In Germany, in 1517, the pamphlet was first used by the leaders of the protestant movement to inflame popular opinion more efficiently against the Pope and the Church. Martin Luther was one of the earliest and most effective pamphleteers. The coarseness and violence of the pamphlets on both sides and the public disorder attributed to their distribution led to their prohibition. Many scholars, disgusted by the abuses and barbarism of the Church, rallied to Luther’s side, and started reading the contents of the pamphlets to the masses. The Protestant Reformation was not about to go away.

By 1520, Luther’s ideas had spread in France, and as early as 1521, at the initiative of the Sorbonne, the condemnations of the Protestant heretics began. Fines and prison sentences were imposed on lowly infidels, while heretical monks and priests were condemned to the stake.

Then came along Jean Calvin, a follower of Luther, who would do something Luther hadn’t considered doing. Luther had mainly been a reformer trying to change the Church from within, but Calvin, a French humanist, wanted much more, he wanted to lay down the rules for a new religion. He had great success among the French bourgeoisie, which comprised the greatest entrepreneurs of the day. Wanting to make up for lost time after the Hundred Years’ War, these businessmen wanted the backwards and cruel Roman Church out of the way. They of course used pamphlets to make their views known, and after the ‘Affaire des Placards’ in 1534, King François I, having lost patience with them, had several of their leaders hanged or sent to the stake. Following these events, Jean Calvin left France and settled in Geneva. Other French Calvinists started emigrating to Hanau, Amsterdam and London.

While Latin continued to be the language of the Roman Church, French became that of the Calvinists in France and French-speaking Switzerland. As of 1570, the printing houses in Geneva and Amsterdam became major centers for the dissemination of French, and consequently of Calvinism. The French nobility had massively adhered to Calvinism as early as 1555. The French Roman Christians, feeling threatened by the Calvinists, perpetrated the Wassy massacre in 1562, when several hundred innocent Huguenots, as Calvinists began to be called, were slaughtered like animals. Then, in 1572, with printing becoming widespread in France, the Huguenots were on the verge of tipping French political power in their favor, and King Charles IX, no doubt with papal approval, engineered the massacre of St. Bartholomew. On the night of August 24, 1572, more than 10,000 noble and notable Huguenots were killed, in Paris and in the provinces.

Because of the Placards Affair in 1534, the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, the siege of La Rochelle in 1627, and the dragonnades under Louis XIV in 1681, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots migrated to more clement lands, and it was the biggest brain drain in the history of any country. That’s why, when Henry VIII was forced to open the door to those with financial and business skills in 1534, many Huguenots had ended up in England where French was still widely spoken among aristocrats.

But in 1573, when William of Nassau-Orange converted to Calvinism, and later, in 1579, when the Treaty of Union was signed in Utrecht, making the Netherlands independent from Spain, Amsterdam became a Huguenot haven and many Calvinists were encouraged to join up with their brothers who were already established there. More importantly, when the Marranos started arriving after their expulsion from Portugal, they joined forces with the Huguenots in both London and Amsterdam, and their union changed the face of the earth